By Ken Tucker
Updated December 12, 2011 at 05:00 AM EST

While it may sound odd to describe Stephen King’s Bag of Bones as warm and comfy, that’s a big part of its pleasure. The two-part miniseries features well-known faces (Pierce Brosnan, Jason Priestley, The Good Wife‘s Anika Noni Rose) experiencing otherworldly duress in states of both dread and Maine (well, Nova Scotia passing as Maine). There’s a big, old haunted house, a novelist hero suffering from writer’s block (a recurring King theme), and some finely detailed supporting characters who render the scary stuff as believable as it can be. It is, in other words, both familiar and surprising, just the kind of combo that can make for satisfying escapism.

Brosnan is best-selling novelist Mike Noonan, a widower whose wife is unfortunately played by Annabeth Gish. I say “unfortunate” because I like Gish’s acting so much, I wanted to see more of her. Looking to crank out a novel to maintain his commercial momentum, the grief-stricken, idea-bereft Mike tries to write while sequestering himself in the Maine house he inherited from his wife. However, anyone who’s read a King book or seen an adaptation of one knows that there’s no sequestering to be done in Maine. And so Mike encounters a curse involving a mean old rich man (TV great William Schallert), a curvy widow (Melissa George), and a dead blues singer (Rose). Mike’s wife communicates with him via refrigerator magnets and tinkling bells. And he has visions of drowning children and talking trees mixed with murder and rape. Unlike lesser writers, King is often effective when he crams as many forms of fear as possible into one tale. Bag of Bones is occasionally hokey, and Brosnan overworks his mad cackling, but the production is never less than creepily engaging. B+